Surprise party for 100 year old retired farmer who was one of the first to use newly built Churchill tanks during the war

Jim Huggins, fourth right, with party organiser Angie Sawer, third right, centre users, family and f

Jim Huggins, fourth right, with party organiser Angie Sawer, third right, centre users, family and friends. Picture: ROGER RAWSON - Credit: Archant

RETIRED Wisbech farmer and great grandfather Sydney ‘Jim’ Huggins can now add centenarian to a life that has seen him live through two world wars, been governed by 24 prime ministers and witnessed the reigns of four monarchs

Jim Huggins with his 100th birthday card from the Queen. Picture: ROGER RAWSON

Jim Huggins with his 100th birthday card from the Queen. Picture: ROGER RAWSON - Credit: Archant

Mr Huggins has been celebrating his 100th birthday with family and friends- and there was even a special party laid on for him at the Oasis Centre, Wisbech, by AgeUK.

Sydney Huggins from Walsoken has just celebrated his 100th. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Sydney Huggins from Walsoken has just celebrated his 100th. Picture: Matthew Usher. - Credit: Matthew Usher

He was born on July 31 1913 and lived in Bevis Lane, Wisbech, and spent his childhood in the Fens.

Sydney Huggins from Walsoken has just celebrated his 100th - Collect photo of Sydney as a young man

Sydney Huggins from Walsoken has just celebrated his 100th - Collect photo of Sydney as a young man with his wife Hilda. Picture: Matthew Usher. - Credit: Matthew Usher

Mr Huggins said: “I remember the end of World War I faintly. Along the North End there was a big warehouse where one of the London and Scotland Regiments used to be based.

Jim Huggins with Molly Bryan, who baked the celebration cake. Picture: ROGER RAWSON

Jim Huggins with Molly Bryan, who baked the celebration cake. Picture: ROGER RAWSON - Credit: Archant

“My mum used to wash the Sergeant Major’s kilt”.


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In July 1940 the newly-married Mr Huggins was conscripted into the army and started out as an infantryman in the Hampshire Regiment’s Second Battalion.

He was trained in the use of the newly-built Churchill tanks and was one of the first soldiers to use one.

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Mr Huggins, who now lives in Pendula Road, Walsoken, rose through the ranks to become a tank commander.

However while carrying out a training exercise in preparation for D-Day disaster struck.

The detonation of a dummy mine led to an explosion in which he sustained serious facial injuries which saw him banned from frontline duties although he refused to leave the service and continued to train other soldiers.

His injury proved to be a lucky escape as many of those in his regiment were killed.

“I’m really lucky, a very lucky fellow,” said Mr Huggins.

“Of the battalion I would have been in about 80 of 100 were killed and I would have been at the front with them.”

Following the war Mr Huggins returned to the Fens where his wife Hilda’s family owned a farm.

In 1942 their first child, Judith, was born.

Mr Huggins became a farmer and rented a small piece of land near Downham Market before moving with his young family, which by then had the additions of Pete, Timothy and Simon, to Broad End Road in Walsoken where he owned an orchard.

“The man who owned it before me was producing 80 tonnes of apples a year but I managed to produce 250 tonnes,” he said.

He continued to farm at the house, known as Yosemite until 1980 when he retired, before moving to his current home in 1988 where he lived with his wife until her death in 2010.

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